There is a subtle lie that the devil tricks us into believing, and it goes something like this: Our best moments are those in which we feel in control and in which we maximize pleasant feelings. The lie does not consist in us enjoying the good things that the Lord has given us, but rather the subtle illusion in which we create false systems of value in which pleasure and relaxation are considered superior to suffering. Such false systems work themselves into all kinds of ways in which we desperately flee from anything that takes away from what we value.
In this way, our value system turns into a whole host of attitudes and habits which pull us farther and farther away from God. This can even work its way into a religiosity in which our limited points of view become dogmatized into absolutes which we impose on others. Thus, our religion becomes a practice that only reinforces our egos in a way that will ultimately sabotage our true vocation in Christ. Although it may give us momentary joys and fleeting consolations, it will be a satisfaction which lacks the true flourishing of the Holy Spirit.
That is why we must be constant students of the Cross. Such a disciple is not necessarily one who is morbid and constantly seeking suffering in a kind of reversal of the previous attitude. Rather, the student of the Cross has discovered that the Father’s unconditional love is the pearl of great price that constantly beckons us to experience heaven on earth. Christ’s victory on the Cross shows us that heaven can break into and defeat the darkness of sin and its effects. On the Cross, Christ both experienced the depths of sin and its disorders while simultaneously carrying the Father’s boundless love into the darkness. As we learn to embrace the Cross, we discover a new found freedom in Christ because we learn to live this paradox.
This freedom allows us to return to the more pleasant experiences of life with greater stillness and sobriety. Instead of our enjoyable experiences leading us to greater vanity and selfishness, they become moments of respite in which our hearts open in gratitude. Joy and happiness become detached from circumstances, and thus become the hallmark of a soul that turns to the Lord with regularity and familiarity. This is the science of the saints, that daily practice of returning to the Lord and offering him everything with total surrender.
That is what the practice of daily prayer instills in us. By meditating constantly on the scripture and by committing ourselves to regular acts of devotion and adoration, we give space for the Holy Spirit to instill in us the gift of God’s love. It is the gift of discovering God’s love operating in the depths of our divinized personhood which is the font of lasting happiness. Thus, we must make time to receive this gift, and so to cultivate vigilance all for the sake of letting Christ enter into our lives.